After a while, I’d given up waiting for her and started exploring more seriously. I hadn’t visited the cave in a few weeks, but fortunately nothing had moved in while I was gone. This trip, I’d followed a river to where it joined a bigger river, and then on to where it finally emptied into a lake. Great place for a settlement, I thought, but apparently nobody on this world agreed. If there was anybody on this world; after ten years, I had serious doubts. The fish were a nice change of diet, at least.
I’d like to think that I had a reason for coming back to the cave, but it was really just reflex. I always came back, just like I always checked out the rock she’d left me on.
Which for the first time since my arrival was occupied. From here, all I could see was white skin and red hair, but I broke my personal record for the Hundred Yard Frantic Scramble getting down there, all the while wondering whether I was more interested in wringing her neck or begging for sex. At least one part of me had already voted for the latter.
It wasn’t her. I’d come up with a lot of scenarios over the years, some naughty, some nice, some dark and bloody, but I’d never thought I’d find a different redhead.
Worse, she looked about twelve.
With only five months until DL-Day, my priorities were simple:
Hoping that she’d return with something more than fantastic sex and terrible notes, I moved into an unoccupied cave with a good view of “our” rock and easy access to fresh water, collected some pointy sticks and sharp-ish rocks, and went looking for signs of civilization.
I quickly settled into a routine of picking a direction, walking as far as I could until midday, climbing a hill or tall tree, looking around for anything, and then returning home disappointed. And usually hungry. I ate pretty much anything I found, at least once, which is how I discovered that grilled beetles tasted a bit like bacon.
Oh, yes, I had invented fire. My sensei was big on perseverance, and it turns out that if you bang enough rocks together, eventually you’ll find the kind that make sparks.
Fire was good for more than cooking, of course. It kept me warm and uneaten at night, and was sure to attract attention from the locals eventually. All I had to do was get out there and find them.
I’d heard that bugs were a good source of protein. I’d never planned to test it, but the thing about paleo diets is that they’re the only option when you suddenly end up living paleo. My crazy redheaded kidnapper had dumped me in the middle of Outer Bumfuck Forest, completely naked and armed only with a post-it note.
What was it with this chick and notes, anyway?
This one was long on drama and short on details, but it covered the basics: Hero good, Demon Lord bad, five months until the big fight. Nothing about finding food, shelter, weapons, or pants.
With wilderness skills that would make a Cub Scout sneer, it was quite a while before I had basic survival covered and could focus on exploring my new world. And it definitely was a new world, because the first time the sky was clear at night, I discovered that the moon had a ring around it.
Which meant she wasn’t crazy, and I was dead. Back home, anyway; here, I was definitely alive, or I wouldn’t have been so cold and hungry.
(I’m up to just under 6,000 words on this, by the way; hopefully I’m not the only one amused by it)
(also, I finally found out what she is, when I hit 5,000 words)
She was gone in the morning, leaving only a note that said we’d meet again once I was safely dead, and a huge mess in the kitchen that said she was only vaguely acquainted with the concept of cooking.
Three weeks later, I’d almost forgotten about her. I mean, she was right about it having been the greatest night of my life, but the details just seemed to slip away, like I wasn’t supposed to remember her. No one else did.
So it came as a bit of a shock to wake up with her on top of me, with the action already in progress. It was some time before I noticed that we weren’t in my apartment. Or anywhere else familiar. Or even indoors. In fact, I was lying on a slab of rock in the middle of a forest, wearing nothing but a satisfied-looking redhead.
“Welcome back from the dead, hero! Ready to save the world?”
“Is that where I get to be on top?”
“Eventually. I brought you here so that you can get ready to defeat the Demon Lord and his army. Here, I wrote everything down.”
This time I saw her vanish. Couldn’t miss it, really, since we were still attached.
There is a great wisdom handed down across generations, from father to son, from brother to brother: never stick it in crazy. In this case, crazy was a natural redhead with the most lick-able freckles I’d ever seen, scattered across a very healthy figure.
“Are you planning to kill me with those?”
“Only metaphorically; I don’t know precisely how it happens, just that it’s certain, it’s tomorrow, and that if I choose, you’ll rise again to serve my needs.”
“That’s more of a double entendre than a metaphor.”
“Do you want to fuck me before you die, or not?”
I stuck it in crazy. I lost count of how many times I rose to serve her needs.
Naturally she skipped out without paying. One moment she was eating her third tofu-and-artichoke pizza, the next she was gone. Which was odd, since I’d been checking her out every thirty seconds for the past hour. Mostly because she was a very enthusiastic eater and wasn’t wearing underwear, just a skimpy little outfit that walked the fine line between party dress and party favor.
Maybe I should have noticed that her dress had no room to hide a wallet, but the things it was hiding, barely, were a lot more interesting. She did leave a note behind that read “see you soon”, which was both promising and a bit worrying.
I checked the street outside, but there was no sign of her. I asked the three other customers if they’d seen which way she went, but they’d barely noticed she was there. It wasn’t until I got off work that I found out where she’d disappeared to: my apartment. More specifically, my shower, which she was coming out of as I walked in. Naked. Her, not me.
“You owe me $47, lady.”
“Think of it as buying me dinner first, so we can move on to the greatest night of your life. Also the last.”
It wasn’t an amazing life, but it was comfortable. I had a job, an apartment, a hobby, and even the occasional girlfriend. Okay, the job was assistant manager at a pizza joint, the apartment was upstairs, and the hobby was an obscure martial arts school on the third floor, but the nearby college was chock-full of pretty girls, which meant the restaurant was, too.
It was slow when she walked in, that mid-afternoon lull when everyone’s finished lunch and gone back to work or class. She was pretty enough that I was surprised she was alone, but when I went over to take her order, I understood: she was nuts.
Usually it takes at least a few minutes to figure out that a college girl is completely bonkers, but then, they usually don’t open the conversation with, “tomorrow you will die, and then I shall assume control of your fate”.
“I’ll be right back with our vegan menu.”
I was not run over by a truck.
I also wasn’t shot, stabbed, electrocuted, poisoned, buried alive, eaten by wild animals, or chased off a cliff by angry bees. To be honest, I’m not entirely certain that I actually died. I only have her word for it, and she wasn’t a reliable source. Hot, though.
She said I’d have five months to learn my way around, master my powers, and forge alliances, then defeat a rampaging Demon Lord and save the world. That was ten years ago. I haven’t seen her since.
I haven’t seen anyone since. Not a human, elf, dwarf, orc, goblin, dragon, ghost, giant, sentient tree, or talking rock. Well, there was that time I ate some rather spectacularly purple berries and everything talked to me, but it went away after a few days.
Also, powers? Unless you count “not dying from hunger”, nothing’s shown up yet.
In short, no powers, no Demon Lord, no friends, no enemies, no monsters, no villages, no damsels in distress, no damsels period. Nothing but trackless wilderness and tasty-looking animals that are really hard to catch.
I am the chosen Hero.
I am alone.
I live in a cave.
I eat bugs.